A personal memorial to a native son who died in Vietnam

Pvt. First Class Glenn R. Gilbert

HILLTOWNS — There are the great war memorials in the national’s capital, no war forgotten nor any sacrifices made.  And thousands of others in towns and cities across the country.

But sometimes a more modest memorial can be equally or even more affecting. And very personal.

On the road where he grew up and from where he left for Vietnam, a Berne native who died in that war will soon be remembered in a simple way, on home ground.

Beaver Dam Road (County Road 303) will soon have a new addition to its road sign, honoring the memory of Pvt. First Class Glenn R. Gilbert, who perished in Vietnam  on August 7, 1970, one of 6,173 Americans whose lives ended far from home that year.  The road will remain Beaver Dam Road. But henceforth — once the Albany County Legislature gives its approval — it will have a second name, the name of its native son, and a designation honoring him.

Vietnam veteran Ed Ackroyd  of Berne has spearheaded an effort to memorialize Gilbert and four other Vietnam veterans in this way.

Ackroyd himself was serving in Vietnam at the time Gilbert was there, but they never saw each other in-country.

“I learned Glenn had died,” he recalls, “when I received a letter from his father telling me Glenn had drowned while trying to retrieve air-dropped supplies from a river."

Gilbert had begun his tour on June 12, 1970, serving in B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, Americal Division. His death came less than two months later, hardly enough time to let his parents — Margaret and David Gilbert and his younger sister, Patty (now Wagoner) — know they shouldn’t worry  as they went about their lives back on the dairy farm where he had grown up.

Wagoner still remembers the day United States Army emissaries came to their door to tell her family that her brother was missing. And then, “a couple of weeks later,” a second visit to inform them his body had been recovered from the river.”

“It wasn’t like today,” she remembers.”Everything was so hush-hush. You didn’t really know what was going on” in those days before Skype calls and emails from theaters of war. Some time after her brother’s death was confirmed, she received back a letter she had written to him, unopened.

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Seeking support: Ed Ackroyd and Patty (née Gilbert) Wagoner appear before the Berne Town Board to ask for its support for adding the name of her brother, Glenn R. Gilbert, to Beaver Dam Road, where Glenn grew up on the family’s dairy farm before he was drafted during the Vietnam War. 

 

Glenn was the older brother who looked out for her. After graduating from Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School in 1966, Glenn worked on his father’s farm and then tended bar at the Wayside Inn on Thompson Lake Road, a place owned by the father of his friend Ed Ackroyd. He was drafted in 1970.

He is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery. His mother Margaret, who died in 2014, was active in Gold Star Mothers and served as New York State president of that organization. His sister is active in several veteran organizations.

Ackroyd hopes to have the legislature’s approval for the honorary sign and the sign in  place as soon as possible. He says he is planning on a dedication ceremony with the participation of county officials, American Legion Riders, Vietnam Veterans of America, and other veteran organizations.

Travis Stevens, Albany County Legislator from Knox, says “I fully support this effort to recognize community members who have lost their lives while in military service for our country.”  He says he and Legislator Christopher Smith will soon propose a resolution to make the memorial a reality.

The Gilbert memorial will be the first of five that Ackroyd hopes to establish for men from the area who lost their lives in Vietnam.  The others to be honored are Richard John Mosley, Eugene Jerome Curless, Jr., Daniel Eugene Nye (all United States Army) and Robert Bruce Schampier, United States Marine Corps.      

For each, when possible, Ackroyd is seeking to identify a road associated with the honoree so that road can be the site for the soldier’s close-to-home memorial. It’s taking some research, he says. The war is now in the distant past. “I’m the one spurring this on, “ Ackroyd says, “but I am getting lots of help from veteran organizations”

You might says it’s a grassroots approach — and a very individualized one — by veterans who are doing all they can to honor their fallen comrades.

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